Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Justice for Oscar Grant

Justice campaigns against Police Murder and Systematic Cover-Up [link]

Oscar Grant Foundation []

Rachel Jackson’s summation of the Oscar Grant truggle for justice, delivered at the 2011-02-19/20 People’s Tribunal []:

More information about the "People's Tribunal" []

The Grant Station Project: []

2013-08-07 "Blame in Oscar Grant BART death may shift"
by Bob Egelko from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Until now, the courts and the public have placed the responsibility for Oscar Grant's death entirely on the BART police officer who shot the unarmed passenger on an Oakland train platform. But a federal appeals court ruling could shift some of the blame to the officer's supervisor and perhaps the transit system itself.
Former Officer Johannes Mehserle, who fired the shot that killed Grant on Jan. 1, 2009, served 11 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter, and is also a defendant in the damage suit by Grant's father and four of his friends. While allowing claims against Mehserle to go to trial, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a ruling last week stressed the role of the lead officer at the scene, Anthony Pirone.
Based on a plausible view of the evidence, the court said July 30, Pirone had no legal justification for forcing Grant and a friend off of a train and onto the platform, where the fatal encounter occurred.

Detention called unlawful -
Attorney John Burris, who has represented Grant's family in earlier proceedings and represents his friends in the current case, said the ruling confirms what he has maintained all along: "But for (Pirone's) unlawful detention at the outset, Oscar Grant would be alive today."
The practical impact of that conclusion, if endorsed by a jury, would probably be minimal for Pirone and others involved in the current suit. Both Pirone and Mehserle are defendants, and BART, as their former employer, would be responsible for any damages resulting from their conduct on the job.
But a finding of liability by a supervisory officer such Pirone would move the dial of responsibility closer to BART and its leadership.
Pirone wielded more authority than Mehserle, whose actions might be discounted as those of an inexperienced, low-level officer, said Robert Weisberg, a Stanford criminal law professor. Generally speaking, he said, an employer "shouldn't be responsible for the actions of a rogue employee, but for negligent supervision."
Pirone's lawyer, William Rapoport, did not return calls seeking comment. In sworn statements in the case, Pirone has said he feared for his safety, and he could try to justify his actions to a jury if the civil suit against him goes to trial.
The events leading to Grant's death began as Pirone responded to a report of a fight on the train just before it reached Oakland's Fruitvale Station in the early morning hours of New Year's Day.
He approached a group of young black men on the platform and pulled his Taser on them. When three of the men started to walk away, he ordered them to sit down, the court said.
Two others in the group, Grant and his friend Michael Greer, re-entered the train, but Grant, who had been involved in the fight, got out when Pirone shined his Taser beam on him. The officer then pulled Greer from the train, yanking him by the hair and knocking him down when Greer spun to face him, the court said.
Pirone later slugged Grant in the head, saying he had seen Grant place a hand on the officer's partner, Marysol Domenici. At that point, Pirone ordered Mehserle to arrest Grant and another man. Mehserle then pulled Grant down, and Pirone and Mehserle pinned him to the platform, facedown.

Training failed, officer says -
As Grant struggled - to breathe, civilian onlookers said, or to resist, the officers testified - Mehserle arose, told Pirone to step aside, pulled out his gun and shot Grant in the back. Mehserle then handcuffed and searched Grant before the 22-year-old Hayward man was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Mehserle testified that stress and inadequate training caused him to mistake his dark service revolver for the yellow Taser stun gun he thought he was shooting. The jury in his criminal case accepted his explanation and convicted him of manslaughter rather than murder.
Pirone was not criminally prosecuted. He was fired after the incident and is appealing.
BART has paid $2.8 million in settlements to Grant's mother and daughter, and could be assessed additional damages in the suits by Grant's father and the four friends, who spent hours in handcuffs at the transit agency's police station after the shooting.
Like the judge in Mehserle's criminal case, the appeals court last week rejected the former officer's claim that the shooting was legally justified and said it should go to the jury. The court also said a jury should decide whether Pirone had any reasonable basis for detaining Grant and his friends.
Courts usually give officers broad leeway in such heat-of-the-moment decisions, said David Levine, a law professor at UC Hastings in San Francisco.
But in this case, the appeals court said, evidence already presented to a federal judge would entitle a jury to conclude that Pirone had no reason to believe the men had committed any crimes, had no reason to hold them for investigation, and "had no lawful basis to detain the group."
The court cited U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's findings in 2011 that Pirone had never asked the train operator if anyone was injured, if any weapons were used, if anyone had come forward to talk about the fight, or if the operator could identify any of the five men as participants. Pirone, by his own admission, never entered the train himself or looked for evidence of any crimes, Patel said.

'No apparent threat' -
A jury could rely on that evidence to conclude that Pirone had no reason to detain Grant and his friends, Judge Mary Murguia said in the appeals court's 3-0 ruling.
 "Pirone encountered a group of black men who were doing nothing but talking when he arrived" at the Fruitvale Station, were not committing any crimes, and posed no apparent threat that would justify his pulling a weapon and holding them, Murguia said.

2013-07-31 "No Immunity for BART Cops in Oscar Grant Lawsuit" 
by Aditi Mukherji []:
An Oscar Grant lawsuit against ex-BART police officer Johannes Mehserle and two other officers can proceed, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. In a unanimous three-judge ruling, the court rejected attempts by the Bay Area Rapid Transit police officers to shield themselves from civil liability by asserting qualified immunity.
Mehserle shot and killed Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old, on the platform of BART's Fruitvale Station in Oakland in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009.
Grant's father and five of Grant's friends sued in the aftermath of the highly-publicized incident, which inspired the recently released movie "Fruitvale Station," reports the San Jose Mercury News.

No Qualified Immunity -
Qualified immunity shields public officials from damages for civil liability if they did not violate an individual's "clearly established" statutory or constitutional rights. It's meant to allow officers to do their job without fear of getting sued whenever someone gets hurt.
But the immunity has its limits.
Even while acting in the scope of their employment, officers can still be sued for intentionally violating a person's constitutional rights. Qualified immunity requires that an official act was undertaken in good faith and with due care.
"It is possible, after weighing all the facts, that the officers committed no constitutional wrongs," Judge Mary Murguia wrote in the 9th Circuit's ruling, according to the Mercury News. "But our task at this stage ... is instead to construe the facts in the manner most favorable to the plaintiffs, who have a right to their day in court."
As a result, the court rejected the officers' legal cushion and is allowing the case to proceed to trial.

Wrongful Death and Racial Profiling Alleged -
The complaint alleges that Mehserle should pay damages for Grant's death, and that the three officers violated the civil rights of Grant's friends when they were arrested early on New Year's Day, reports the Mercury News.
Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in state prison, which he has already served. Grant's father, however, asserts in the civil lawsuit that the shooting was intentional, and that Mehserle should be held liable for his son's wrongful death.
Grant's friends argue, among other claims, that they were targeted and mistreated based on racial profiling.

2012-11-29 "Oscar Grant movie to compete at 2013 Sundance Film Festival" by "Beat News Service" []:
A movie about the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting of BART passenger Oscar Grant by a police officer has been selected to compete for best dramatic film in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, festival organizers announced Wednesday.
“Fruitvale” depicts the hours before Grant’s slaying by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland. The shooting was captured on numerous cameras by witnesses and immediately went viral on the internet.
Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer and ”Chronicle” actor Michael B. Jordan play the roles of Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother, and the shooting victim respectively.
The production is one of 16 independent movies selected for the US dramatic film competition, the Sundance Institute, which organizes the film festival, said.
The film is directed by Ryan Coogler, an Oakland native who wrote the screenplay at a Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Filming was done at several BART stations in the East Bay and in Downtown San Francisco in July and August.
The movie is currently in post-production and is expected to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, which will be held in Utah from January 17-27.

Justice for Oscar Grant been denied!
"People v. Mehserle: Petition for review" denied in CA Supreme Court

2012-11-20 "Tony Pirone shouldn't have a badge; A possible twist in the struggle against the Oakland police"
by David McCarthy from "International Socialist Organization" []:
ANTHONY "TONY" Pirone is seeking arbitration with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to be reinstated to his previous position with the BART police. readers may remember Pirone as one of the police officers on the Fruitvale BART platform in Oakland when Oscar Grant III was shot and killed by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in the early morning hours of New Year's Day, 2009.
Pirone was caught on camera and observed by witnesses hurling racial epithets at Grant and physically assaulting him. He had his knee on Grant's back while Grant was laying on the platform as Mehserle shot and killed him.
Indeed, many consider Pirone as one of the main instigators in the events leading to Grant's murder.
Pirone, along with his partner Marysol Domenici, while never formally prosecuted for any crime or misconduct, were both fired on the recommendation of an independent consulting law firm regarding violation of BART rules of conduct--specifically, false testimony and physical assault, including Pirone's physical assault on various people and Domenici's violation of procedure in the use of a Taser).
Jack Bryson, the father of two of Oscar's friends who were with him on the platform the night he was killed, and Cephus Johnson, Oscar's uncle, have stated that people within BART management with whom they are in contact with have indicated that there is little chance Pirone will get hired back. But this isn't a certainty.
Bryson and Johnson think that it is highly unlikely Pirone would get his job back. While police in California have always been granted a great deal of leniency regardless how bad their conduct has been, there are reasons to think that BART may be reticent about having Pirone back on the force.
Pirone was used by Mehserle's defense to take a lot of the blame for the events leading up to Grant's murder. His aggressive attitude and the physical assaults against people detained on the platform were used by Mehserle's defense lawyer Michael Rains (infamous for his defense of the Oakland Riders) to label Pirone as the instigator of the events that night in order to attempt to excuse Mehserle's own culpability. Specifically, Rain portrayed Mehserle as an inexperienced "rookie" who got "caught up" in Pirone's violent methods.
That, combined with the defense's racist vilification of Grant, is responsible for Mehserle getting sentenced to only two years for involuntary manslaughter. By throwing Pirone under the bus to take "moral responsibility" for the events that led up to Grant's murder, BART officials and the defense were most likely hoping to avoid what would have been a far more damning scandal to BART, and police in general, in a city notorious for police brutality.
Johnson thinks that BART and the Oakland district attorney used the media blitz around Mehserle's trial to shift focus away from the additional officers who were intimately involved in the escalation of events that lead to Grant's murder. In the eagerness to get some measure of justice for Grant, Pirone and Domenici received less attention.
In the end, even the half-measure of justice that was achieved with Mehserle's conviction meant little. Along with Merhserle getting the lowest possible conviction and sentence, Domenici was re-hired before even a year had passed since her firing, with full back pay.
While hopeful that Pirone's attempts to seek re-hiring will not be successful, we must still say that the limited "justice" meted out after Grant's murder was no real justice at all. If Pirone gets his job back, the lack of real justice for people of color under capitalism will simply be made all the starker by the denial of even that limited "justice."
Any real justice for Grant and other victims of police brutality will not be achieved by leaving it to the courts or BART's discretion, but by building movements in the street capable of fighting back against racism and police violence.
There will be several more arbitration hearings over the next few months, with the last slated for January 2013, at which point a decision will be made.

2012-12-04 "BART Officer Who Fatally Shot Oscar Grant Seeks Legal Shield From Lawsuits"
by Sylvia Ramirez []:
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) -- A federal appeals court in San Francisco is mulling a bid by former BART officer Johannes Mehserle and two other officers to be shielded from some of the claims in lawsuits by the father and five friends of Oscar Grant III.   
Grant, 22, of Hayward, was fatally shot by Mehserle at BART's Fruitvale station in Oakland early on New Year's Day in 2009. Mehserle and other officers were responding to reports of a fight on a BART train.   
Mehserle, 30, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the state court system in a 2010 trial that was moved to Los Angeles County Superior Court because of intense publicity in the Bay Area.     
He testified he intended to use a Taser stun gun but accidentally drew his revolver instead. Mehserle was sentenced to two years in prison and released last year after receiving credits that reduced his time served to about a year.     
Both the shooting of Grant, which was recorded on cellphone videos by bystanders, and the verdict were followed by large-scale protests in Oakland.     
Monday's hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned a separate set of federal civil lawsuits filed against several officers by Grant's relatives and five companions who were handcuffed and detained by BART police for several hours.     
Parts of the lawsuits have been settled. Sophina Mesa, the mother of Grant's now 8-year-old daughter, Tatiania, settled with BART and officers on behalf of her child for $1.5 million in 2010.    
Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, settled for $1.3 million in 2011.     
Remaining in the case are Grant's father, Oscar Grant Jr., who claims loss of familial association, and the five friends, who claim the officers used excessive force and assaulted them when they were detained.     
On Monday, a three-judge panel heard arguments for about an hour on contentions by Mehserle, former officer Anthony Pirone and officer Marysol Domenici that they should be protected from parts of the lawsuits by the doctrine of qualified immunity.     
The doctrine shields officials from being sued for actions taken in the course of their work that do not violate clearly established rights. The three officers are appealing a 2011 ruling in which U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel denied immunity on some of the lawsuit claims.  
Appeals court judges Mary Murguia, Michael Hawkins and Wallace Tashima took the case under submission and will rule at a later date.

"Mehserle Trial" chronicles from "California Beat" 2010-05-27 to 2010-11 []

2010-10-19 Dueling Boats: "Justice 4 Oscar Grant" vs. "Free Mehserle" []

"New evidence of a coverup in the murder of Oscar Grant. Whistleblower needs support!" []

2011-05 flier:

Buttons made by Tracey Bell-Borden (2013-03) in honor of Oscar Grant 3rd. Tracy is an organizer with various Justice campaigns across the Eastbay.

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